The Happiness Habits: 7 Ways to Feel Better Now


Is there a formula to happiness? Is there a way to retool our lives, reshape our routines, and revise our approach that might make happiness much more likely? I think so. If being happy is a combination of authentic connections, meaningful work, and peace that's sprinkled with simple pleasures, then yes — there very well may be a recipe for it. (See also: 44 Ways to Improve Health and Happiness)

You see, whether they realize it or not, happy people share some common behaviors that help strip away the noise that, for others, drowns out happiness. Rather than creating it from scratch, happy people tap into the joy that so many others have buried under loads of stress, work, distraction, and exhaustion.

If you're ready to reclaim a bit more joy in your own life, here are seven habits that can quiet the noise and help you tune into being happy.

1. Unplug

Our devices are demanding. Many of us spend our days in front of a computer screen, tending to the alerts and alarms of our smartphones, or working in-transit on our tablets. But the benefits of connectivity blur the lines between work and play — often diluting our effectiveness with the former and full participation in the latter.

Happy folks tend to relegate devices to their proper place and unplug when the occasion calls for it. Think of it. Meal time that's reserved just for eating and good conversation; sleep uninterrupted by a ringtone or message notification; playtime with our kids that's device- and distraction-free. It's all possible with a little commitment and the touch of a button. (See also: The Joy of Disconnecting)

2. Make Lists of Short Term and Long Term Goals

It's simple — happy people have a plan. Short-term and long-term goals breathe life into the monotony of our everyday worlds.

Reflect on the goals that drive you forward, motivate your work, and help you cope with challenges. Do you want to take a vacation in the summer? Eventually own your business? Live debt free? Do you want to go back to school and eventually pursue a different dream? Seize the power of your well-considered goals and use that power to carry you over obstacles and around roadblocks. As each goal becomes reality, the success will fuel your next dream.

3. Keep Moving

Exercise releases endorphins, the body's natural antidepressant. Even moderate activity like short but regular walks, bike rides, and low-impact sports can help lift our moods, make us feel better about our bodies, reduce stress, and promote a pleasant fatigue that produces the very best sleep.

Happy people work exercise into their daily routines as a sort of foil to the sedentary nature of modern life and the lethargy it can so easily lead to. Add just 15-30 minutes of moderate physical exercise to your schedule and see how much better it can make you feel. (See also: Ways to Exercise in Under 5 Minutes)

4. Immerse Yourself in Meaningful Activity

Paid or not, good work is nurturing and energizing.

Committing our time, effort, and talents to work that's in line with our deeper priorities and passions makes us feel vital and more authentic — two qualities that go hand-in-hand with happiness. Being able to lose ourselves in a hobby, in volunteer work, or in a career we love is akin to meditation. It feeds a fundamental need that all humans have and may be as close as we can get to the idea of 'play' in adult life.

5. Tend to Personal Connections

In our hyper-connected world filled with texting, IMs, FaceTime, and tweets, real connection can sometimes get lost. Happy people tend to make the effort to nurture their friendships and other relationships through face-to-face contact. Moments of genuine unscripted interaction can feed our personal relationships and, in turn, nourish our happiness. (See also: Why Cultivating Relationships Is Good for You)

Resolve to remember birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions, and acknowledge them with your time and company. Surprise an old friend with flowers, schedule a lunch date when you both have time to linger, reconnect over coffee and let the conversation wander.

6. Mono-Task

Multitasking is overrated. Juggling more than two or three task simultaneously almost guarantees a mediocre outcome of each and a low level of stress to boot. Don't trade your peace for productivity.

Depending on how much of your attention needs to be devoted to what you're doing, try "mono-tasking." Be happily present in each activity; prioritize what needs to be done next, and skip the circus act of spinning a dozen plates in the air while you mop the floors and answer email.

7. Reserve Time for Uninterrupted Sleep

Sleep may be one of life's last free luxuries. Enjoy it. Deep and restful sleep helps avoid anxiety, combat stress, and it promotes clarity and good decision-making.

Carve out enough time every evening for an adequate amount of sleep and hold that time sacred. Likewise, don't feel guilty about sneaking in a nap every once in a while, either; it can be a wonderful way to get your second wind and recalibrate a bad mood.

The path to happiness isn't a great mystery. It may as simple as putting our minds to new habits and priorities and letting a few old ideas fall away. And what greater experiment could there be than to embrace a few changes and see how our moods — how our lives — improve?

Do you have a recipe for joy? What new habits have added to your own happiness and what advice would you give readers who feel stuck?

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Guest's picture

Useful post, to be happy is so important. Getting out in the sun can also help. So I would suggest making the most of the sun we do have. Even if it is just a ten minute stroll in the sun.

Guest's picture

#5 really resonated with me. "Moments of genuine unscripted interaction can feed our personal relationships and, in turn, nourish our happiness." SO TRUE. I just had lunch with an old college friend and just those few hours made me happier for the rest of the week.

Guest's picture

Thanks for these great tips. I am a huge believer in #1. Leaving the phone at home when going for a walk, not looking at emails or texts during meals and in general giving yourself time to focus on yourself and the people you're with is invaluable.

Guest's picture

I like your mono-task description. I hate multitasking. I find that when I or others multitask, many things get partially done, or they get done, but not done very well. I work much better if I concentrate on one task at a time and put all my effort into completing that one task.

Guest's picture

#6 Mono tasking has been helpful for me. Also keeping a daily gratitude journal has made a huge difference in the level of happiness I feel.

Guest's picture

Talk about the 'simplest things in life,' while the outside world keeps getting more and more complicated we need to be reminded about getting back to basics.

Guest's picture

Taking the time to recognize the good things, celebrate the small successes, and be grateful has made a tremendous difference in my happiness. It works!

Guest's picture

Thank you for sharing these ways to feel better and evoke happiness within ourselves. This time of the year can be the most stressful so we forget to give ourselves appropriate time for rest, working out and participation in other activities we love. We will be tweeting your happiness habits to our followers from our Twitter account, @OncorPML! Thanks for sharing.

Guest's picture

I have started a new interest - zentangle. This art form requires no artistic talent. All you products you need to start will cost you less than $20. Do an internet search to find out more. Lots of people are improving their focus, concentration and enjoying this relaxing artform. Make room for it in your life'll notice the changes in yourself.